JoAnna Lou
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Best and Worst States for Pets
ALDF ranks animal protection laws in the U.S.
The best and the worst in the United States.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws in New York.

In my research, I discovered that each year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) ranks the animal protection laws of every state in the United States.

The ALDF's most recent report compares fourteen categories of animal protection laws, ranking states into a top, middle and bottom tier and highlighting the best and worst five states.

Best Five: Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, California

Worst Five: Kentucky, North Dakota, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi

Top Tier: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia

Middle Tier: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Utah, Virgin Islands

Bottom Tier: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming

Some of the characteristics that separated the best from the worst were felony penalties for cruelty, neglect and abandonment, mandatory reporting of cruelty by veterinarians, and giving humane agents some law enforcement authority. 

I’m glad that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is compiling this information as it brings awareness to the varying laws between states. Hopefully this report will encourage animal lovers to write to their respective politicians to improve their states’ ranking. Arkansas, which made an appearance on the worst five list in 2008, made the jump to 25th overall in the country this year.

Even for the top tier, there is always room to be better. For each of the best five states, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has outlined possible improvements.

Let’s hope that one day every state will make it to the top tier.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Jen (booizzy.com) | April 1 2010 |

How can Colorado be in the top tier with Denver's horrible BSL laws?

Submitted by Ann | April 2 2010 |

Thank you Jen for reminding me about the BSL laws. They are wrong and should be abolished! Responsibility must be placed on the individual owner and not the breed as they are at fault 99.9% of the time rather than the breed of dog they own.

Submitted by Melissa | April 3 2010 |

Wow, I can't believe PA is in the middle tier, with all of our puppy mills. Doesn't say much for the bottom tier, does it!

Submitted by Lynn | April 6 2010 |

I agree with you. I work with a NJ rescue group and over the years the majority of our saddest rescues have come from puppy mills in PA, then Missouri and some other southern states. Not that NJ is any better in terms of animal cruelty laws. Newark, NJ is at the top of the list for dog fighting and law enforcement and government do little to stop it or punish it.

Submitted by PitBullMom | April 20 2010 |

Many of your readers might want to take this list with a huge grain of salt. Many of the states you have listed in the "top tier" have horrible Breed Specific Legislation laws, including Washington state, Denver (CO), and parts of Massachusetts. In addition, Michigan - one of your top five - bans "pit bull" breeds throughout most of the state. In fact, for "pit bull" parents, some of your bottom tier states are best - at least they don't have BSL!

Submitted by Monkfishy | May 10 2010 |

Don't worry - Mississippi, which is in the bottom five, has plenty of regional BSL laws. We also recently had an animal control worker who had been picking up strays, then shooting them and dumping their bodies in a creek bed. They don't know how long he'd been doing it, but they found over 100 bodies. Luckily for him, though, that's only a misdemeanor, since Mississippi has no felony animal cruelty laws.

Submitted by Melissa | April 22 2010 |

My hometown is in West Virginia. I'm very surprised that it wasn't at the bottom, just because so many people there have outside dogs with little or no shelter.

Submitted by Joyce | May 10 2010 |

The results could be misleading. Just because there are laws doesn't mean they are enforced. I live in Missouri and the current laws are minimal and rarely enforced by Dept of Agriculture representatives. There are not enough reps to investigate all the complaints and then go back to see that problems have been resolved. I don't know many people who would like their taxes increased so there could be more workers to investigate problems.
A lot of people in Missouri worked very hard to get enough signatures to have a Puppy Mill Cruelty bill on the ballet in November, hopefully it will get passed. However that doesn't mean things will get better soon alot of the new regulations won't take effect for a year. This gives the offender a little time to figure out how to get around the new law.

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